The Path of HumilityMatthew 20:25-28Theme: Servanthood.This week’s lessons remind us that following Christ requires that we learn to be humble.
LessonJesus’ teaching on humility was an intensification of his earlier teaching. Earlier he had been speaking of relative positions within his kingdom – the first would be last and the last first. Now he was teaching that without humility it was not possible even to enter his kingdom.
A third incident that illustrates this truth came before the triumphal entry. On this occasion the mother of James and John came to Jesus asking if her sons could sit on the right and left sides of Jesus in his kingdom. The other disciples heard about it and got angry with James and John. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:25-28; cf. Mark 10:42-45).
We would think perhaps that after that episode and lecture the disciples would have learned the lesson and that the desire for chief place among them might be forgotten. But this was not so. Apparently the conflict intensified and continued even into the upper room. For, if Luke is giving us an accurate chronology of this evening, we learn that even after the institution of the Lord’s Supper “a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest” (Luke 22:24). It was at this point perhaps that the Lord divested himself of his clothing and performed the foot washing.
One of the greatest books on the Christian life that I have read is A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. He deals with humility in this book in a chapter entitled “Meekness and Rest,” and he says quite correctly that learning humility from Jesus delivers us from crushing burdens.
Humility delivers us from the burden of pride. Humility is the exact opposite of pride. So to the extent that we learn meekness in Christ’s school, so far are we delivered from the destructive weight of self-love, pride, and arrogance. The burden of pride is a heavy one. In his study Tozer asks us to consider how much trouble has come into our own lives because of our prideful reaction to someone who has given us offense. “As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal, there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol. How then can you hope to have inward peace? The heart’s fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of a friend or enemy, will never let the mind have rest. Continue this fight through the years and the burden will become intolerable. Yet the sons of earth are carrying this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, cringing under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them.”1
1 A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1948), p. 112.
According to Jesus, what is necessary for entering the kingdom of heaven?
How did the thinking of James and John’s mother fail to line up with Jesus’ teaching?
According to Dr. Boice, what is the opposite of humility?
What happens when we set ourselves up as “our own little god”?
Further StudyAdd A. W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God, to your reading list.
ReflectionThink about the following question or discuss it in your small-group Bible study: Why do you think the disciples struggled to get past their concern for personal greatness?